Foyles

Review: Only Ever Yours

Only Ever Yours
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only Ever Yours was a book that I hadn’t heard of before I attended YALC. Then I was bombarded with praise for this book – including a full page spread in the YALC flyer – and within 48 hours I was on the tube to Foyles on Charing Cross Road to get myself a copy.

This is a debut novel which has won both the YA book prize and the Sunday Independent Newspaper Novel of the Year. It’s got to be good, right?

The novel revolves around Freida, who attends a school which trains women to go into one of three professions: companions (the perfect wife for a man of high standing), concubines, or chastities (teachers at the school). Freida, and her best friend, Isabel, are two of the most highly rated girls at the school, and surely destined for roles as companions… until Isabel distances herself during their final year and puts on weight. The novel details the last year of their schooling, including the arrival of the ten future husbands eager to choose a wife (and the destinies of these girls).

The girls have all been bred for sex, and independent thought is discouraged. They all have eating disorders. Essentially the girls in the book are all the same, with minor physical tweaks to make them differentiable. A slight problem here is that there are a lot of characters, of which only a small minority undergo any character development. The worthlessness of these girls is reinforced throughout the novel, to the point where the women aren’t even deserving of a capital letter in their name (a really poignant stylistic choice).

It’s depressing but it’s also brilliantly written and thought-provoking. This is the kind of book which you hate, but you understand why it’s been written how it’s written and the point it’s trying to make. The ending is inspired (and definitely worth the read), and even though it’s a little abrupt, it’s also perfect.

I would recommend this book, if not only because it isn’t a rehash of every other YA novel on the market. It has important things to say regarding the way society works today and the impossible beauty standards girls aspire to. It depicts realistic sex, it talks about periods and it discusses homosexuality (and its eradication in this world so that all women serve men). Those are topics which are completely relevant in YA but which hardly ever feature – and it’s important that they DO feature. The main heartbreak in the novel is one between friends, which is often way more relatable than having your heart broken by the most perfect guy/vampire/werewolf/alien on the planet.

After this brilliant debut, I can’t wait for Louise O’Neill’s second novel, Asking For It, which, refreshingly, isn’t a sequel. (Hooray for a stand-alone YA novel!)

View all my reviews

Annalise x

YALC, London: Day 2

image

After a few hours sleep at my hostel (even though I was exhausted even after Day 1), I awoke on Saturday excited for another day at YALC!

I kicked off the day with an amazing panel – YA: The Next Generation. Moderated by Samantha Shannon, and starring Alice Oseman, Lucy Saxon (wearing an awe-inspiring Zelda cosplay), Helena Coggan and Taran Matharu, this was a real highlight of the weekend (although it did make me feel old at the tender age of 21!). This panel brought up some interesting discussion surrounding diversity in young adult novels, and the downsides of being published so young, and ultimately it was inspiring that people younger than me have both written and published novels – definitely got to get down to writing sometime soon! The panel also brought up the different routes into becoming a published author – Taran started posting on Wattpad before getting picked up for a publishing deal. The panel also reinforced the idea that you should write the book that you want to read – if you want to read it, others will too!

A highlight of the afternoon was the Editing Yourself workshop with Alexia Casale. This was my first real introduction into editing, something i’ve not really ever got to the point of doing (although I did write a 50,000 novel during NaNoWriMo last year which I might come back to at some point). The whole editing process became a lot less daunting and something I actually look forward to (although it is a lot easier to edit someone else’s work!). I’m really looking forward to the day where i’m confident enough in a novel and an idea that I get to edits! Alexia also gave advice on writing in general – something I took to heart was to start your novel at the last possible moment for everything to make sense and the plot to work – describing the mundane is generally boring to your readers.

The last talk of the day was on the differences between being published in the UK and the US – this was really informative about the different ways the markets work and what they look for. There was also some great advice about covers – something authors generally have no control over. It’s always exciting to see the ways different publishing teams take a novel and market it – so many different covers and titles for the same book inside (albeit a few language edits!).

On Saturday, there were also many amazing authors signing their novels – Judy Blume (a legend if I ever saw one), Cassie Clare (I didn’t take any of her books to sign because I already got two of them signed last year – and the queues were so long!), Malorie Blackman, Holly Smale, Arabella Weir, Patrick Ness… Great to see so many inspiring people in one place!

I grabbed a copy of Forever by Judy Blume, a book i’ve heard recommended for years, from the on-site Waterstone’s bookshop, and hopped on the tube after the convention to the Foyles store on Charing Cross Road. After many recommendations over the first two days, I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse, and a book on writing New Adult novels (i’m planning on writing, honest!).

All in all, Saturday was an exciting day, with some great authors and inspiring panels and workshops. Were you at YALC? What were your highlights?

Annalise x